By Linda Kissam
What makes a great wine bar? I know, I know, wine bars are so common nowadays that all sorts of places are calling themselves a “wine bar.” Some are nothing more than a couple of bar stools and an uninformed server. Others seem to have gotten the marketing terms down, but not the wine list. Before I put my dollars down, I like to look inside and make sure there really are plenty of interesting bottles of wine that appear to be available by the glass and some small plates of food that complement the wine promising a special evening. I like a friendly, knowledgeable server who knows what the wines taste like, one who remembers my name and who knows where I am in my tasting. A good wine bar isn’t just a bar with some wine. It specializes in wine. I like a place where the owner takes a real interest in making my wine time a memorable experience.
I happened to find a great new wine bar this year, District Wine. Located in the trendy Long Beach, Calif. downtown restaurant district, it’s a wine bar that is really more about the wine experience then a place to just taste wine. It’s owned and operated by local Long Beach residents Mark and Angela Dunton, who started it from scratch in April 2010. In the three years it’s been opened Angela and Mark have been carefully and thoughtfully crafting a space where the wine and foodie aficionado or the novice can come to enjoy more than 30 small-lot wines by the glass, along with stylish appetizers. These guys know their stuff. Visit them soon.
If you’re into the new craze of trying and buying specially allocated wines – this is the place for you. The owners have a collective palate that will rock your world. They personally choose each of the wines they sell and rely on family recipes and local farmers to assure each pairing is ultra-fresh and nothing like you can get elsewhere. Yes, their selections are THAT good. And just maybe the best part is that two people can each have a generous glass of wine and an amazing appetizer for less than $20 each. You can thank me later for the tip, or just come back to WineFoodExplorer each month to read Taste the Place, and learn more about great food and wine places that reflect their very own unique taste and place in California.
My food and wine pairing recommendations:
Wendy’s Blue: Crunchy Romaine Topped with Mom’s special blue Cheese and Crispy prosciutto paired with EnRoute Pinot Noir, Russian River, Calif. This Pinot reveals beautiful aromatics of cherry and raspberry with subtle floral and mineral notes, baking spices and toasted vanilla. (www.enroutewinery.com)
Herbed Meatballs: Parsley and thyme herbed meatballs with delicious roasted pepper Somesco sauce paired with Two Hands Shiraz, South Australia. This Shiraz has a medium body – smoky nose and leathery – with light red fruit in the mouth. (www.twohandswines.com)
District Margarita Pizza: Topped with tangy homemade tomato sauce, fresh buffalo mozzarella, fire-roasted tomatoes and spicy arugula on top. Pair this with Caymus Special Selection, Rutherford, Calif. Structured and firm with layers of ripe blueberry, chocolate and sweet, smoky cedar. (www.caymus.com)
District Wine is located at 144 Linden Ave. in Long Beach, Calif. For hours and complete information visit www.districtwine.com
Just to keep things interesting and enticing, Mark and Angela have shared their original recipe for Wendy’s Blue from District Wine for us to share with you with their warmest compliments. Enjoy!
Recipe: Wendy’s Blue:
Crunchy romaine topped with Mom’s special blue cheese dressing and crispy prosciutto.
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic pepper
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
3/4 cup blue cheese – break up and crumble
Fold together all ingredients and chill three hours before serving.
1 head of romaine lettuce torn into bite sized pieces.
1/4 pound of thinly sliced and diced prosciutto, sauté until crispy
Drizzle romaine with dressing and top with crispy prosciutto.